“I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted Tuesday, testifying under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it,” he added during his opening remarks.
Five days earlier, former FBI director James Comey testified before the same committee after which, during the closed hearing with the committee that followed, senators heard of an alleged undisclosed third meeting between Sessions and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. at the Mayflower hotel in Washington. According to press reports, the information was gathered in an interception of Russia-to-Russia communication.
“Let me state this clearly, colleagues: I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign, or election, in the United States. Further I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign,” Sessions told his former Senate colleagues.
“Any suggestion that I participated in, or was aware of, collusion with the Russians is an appalling and detestable lie.”
During his public testimony, Comey took some heat for not blowing the whistle when Trump buttonholed him and said he hoped Comey could let go the probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey said he had gone to the AG, but had gotten stiffed, declining to discuss Sessions further.
Sessions recused himself from Russia probes, after failing to disclose two other meetings with Russians that occurred when he was part of Trump’s election effort.
During his testimony, Sessions insisted, under oath, “I recused myself, not because of any wrongdoing… but because of department regulation.”
Sessions began the session warning the Senate Intel Committee he will not dish much on President Donald Trump. “I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect the confidential communications I had with the president,” he told the committee at Tuesday’s public hearing.
He had expected to invoke executive privilege in re conversations with Trump. Sessions said he’s not doing that, because only POTUS has that ability. But he declined to answer so many questions that Dem Senator Ron Wyden accused him of stonewalling. “I am not stonewalling,” he responded stoutly.
“I’m following the historic policies of the Department of Justice. You don’t walk into any hearing or committee meeting and reveal confidential communications with the President of the United States who is entitled to receive confidential communications, and your best judgment about a host of issues.”